Over twenty years ago, the first time I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon, I was married but not yet a parent. Though my mind released most of the plot over those years, I remember being fascinated by Christopher Boone’s – the 15-year-old narrator’s—perspective, riveted by his unique voice and the personality quirks he revealed while he channeled Sherlock Holmes, investigating the gory murder of his neighbor’s poodle (Wellington) with a garden fork. I’d never read a book like it and talked it up to family and friends. When I re-read the book about a week ago, with over two decades of marriage in the rearview mirror and three young-adult children rocking my world, I again appreciated Christopher’s perspective, voice, and personality, but I found myself relating far more with Ed Boone, Christopher’s single father.
Ed is navigating the constant grind of work, the isolation of parenting a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism), and the grief of losing his wife. I could feel his frustration tugging at his patience and the undercurrents of anger and resentment that he hid as best he could…and numbed with a stiff drink when he could no longer hide them. At the same time, his love for Christopher makes him a fierce advocate. He stands up to the police after Christopher punches the cop who is investigating Wellington’s murder, schools the administrators who underestimate Christopher’s potential, despite his awe-inspiring math skills, and crafts a series of lies—all meant to protect Christopher—that will come back to bite him in the ass. I am a sucker for supremely human (a.k.a. flawed) characters, and Ed fits the bill, as you will see for yourself.
I’d barely finished my second read of the book when fiction crashed into reality. In tears, my mom called to say that my cousin’s 18-year-old son—who also had Asperger’s—had committed suicide. He removed all his clothes, piled them neatly at the edge of a piling, and jumped off the bridge. Though no two people—with or without Asperger’s—are alike, I can’t help diving back into Haddon’s book, looking for clues…for answers. Why did he do it? What was he thinking? Could I have done more to ease his journey? No book or person on the planet has those answers, but Haddon’s book shines a light on a perspective rarely seen, which makes me treasure it even more.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon is widely available at libraries and book sellers in print, electronic, and audio formats. It has also been adapted into a play by Simon Stephens. The film rights for the novel have been optioned, but the film has not yet been produced.
Review written by: Erin Castelloe
Pair It With:
Grey Goose Martini: The vodka makes all the difference! This smooth vodka shaken until ice cold and topped with an olive or a twist is refreshing all year round.